Mark Regnerus of Christianity Today feels that the church is sending the wrong message by encouraging both abstinence and delayed marriage. So what's his solution? Have young Christian couples marry as early as possible, of course.
Regnerus argues that the Church's stance on abstinence is "unreasonable" when faced with the statistics on American marriages—namely, that men and women are marrying in their late twenties. "When people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry," Regnerus argues, "it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It's battling our Creator's reproductive designs." But instead of challenging the Church to reconsider their abstinence-only push, Regnerus says the answer is supporting early marriage, so that young Christians can remain faithful to their religion, even as hormones and the passage of time make it increasingly difficult for them to do so.
However, Regnerus tells the Associated Press that he's not trying to push young Christians to marry simply to avoid premarital sex: "I think marriage is just a fantastic institution for people who think rightly about it, have realistic ideas about it and put the requisite work into it," he says. Yet his piece seems to be fairly one sided when it comes to who, exactly, benefits the most from "young marriages."
Women, Regnerus argues, are outnumbered 3-1 in the Evangelical church, and their chances of finding a "chaste" man dwindle as they age. They're also faced with maturing faster than their male counterparts, which factors into this creepy argument: "It shouldn't surprise us when a young woman falls in love with someone three, five, even ten years her senior. Indeed, two of the finest marriages I've recently witnessed exhibit nearly a dozen years' difference between husband and wife. While there are unwise ages to marry, there is no right age for which we must make our children wait." One wonders how Regnerus would feel about a 20 year old Christian male falling in love with a 32 year old woman.
It's a fairly weak argument on his part, as he tries to brush aside the realities of young marriage (high divorce rates, money troubles, difficulties completing a college education, family disapproval) as thinks that are well-documented but easily avoided through—you guessed it—good Christian counseling. "Abstinence is not to blame for our marital crisis," he argues, "But promoting it has come at a cost in a permissive world in which we are increasingly postponing marriage." But is it really about "a permissive world?" Or is it about a world where young people are increasingly saddled with student loans, difficult job prospects, and social norms wherein their peers marry and have children later in life? Regnerus says it's not about the sex. But if that's the case, why the rush to marry? Why can't true love wait, like the church has been asking it to for years? For young Evangelicals, it seems, it's a matter of deciding what is, and isn't, worth the wait.